Production photography by Katy Green-Loughrey

It would be absurd to walk into a lounge room you mistook for a toilet and find yourself trapped in a very funny play. It would be a bit like being born and then trying to work out where you are, who you are and if these are your absurd lines or if they have been written by an insecure, egotistical playwright.

The anonymous HE, well played by David Jeffrey, walks into a comfortable middle class lounge room, mistaking it for a toilet, sees the audience and is embarrassed. He attempts to go back out of the room but the door will not open. He unsuccessfully tries the doors on the other two walls which only leaves the invisible fourth wall. After some deliberately predictable miming the fourth wall does turn out to be impenetrable.

The man is joined by SHE,  an anonymous woman, played with confidence and humour by Cherrie Whalen-David, who also mistakes the room for a toilet and similarly cannot escape the room. As they can see the audience they begin to wonder if they may be in a play. Neither character can remember anything prior to entering the room. In a profound and revealing question the woman asks, “Perhaps I didn’t exist before I walked on stage?”

An existential play that examines the reason and nature of theatre, life, death, meaning and the sheer randomness of the universe turns out to be very amusing. There is slapstick and physical humour, especially when the OTHER MAN makes his appearance and SHE is playing with the corpse.

There are cheap puns, hammy acting, bat guano jokes, deriding of arty experimental theatre and playful interaction with the audience. Caspar Hardaker as the OTHER MAN gives an exuberant performance.

Director Julie Baz has brought all the disparate elements of the play and the very different styles of acting into a thoughtful, coherent and laugh out loud experience.

The actors discuss the motivation and philosophies of the playwright, Simon Dodd, from various perspectives. The masculine and feminine perspectives are explored, and in this case the man is the more philosophical and cerebral character, whereas the woman is a much more practical and grounded personality.

PLAYTHING directly questions the relationships between playwrights, the actors, critics and the audience. Does the audience attend for escapism, philosophical musings or for a challenging and thoughtful evening? Is theatre a huge exercise in self indulgence for the playwright, the actors and the audience?

PLAYTHING is an impressive piece of art reflecting upon itself and contains many theatre jokes and references. The actors attempt to work out what the next plot point could be and try to trigger events by calling out cues. The young couple are joined on stage by an older couple, played with elegant and appropriately hammy acting by Michael Harrs and Cherilyn Price, which gives the play another level of dynamism and an opportunity to explore youth, optimism and exuberance and to compare these attributes with experience, wisdom and the jaded acceptance of one’s own fate.

Simon Dodd’s PLAYTHING manages to be entertaining and philosophical whilst cleverly exploring why playwrights write, actors act and audiences go to the theatre.

A fascinating discourse on all things theatrical, Simon Dodd’s PLAYTHING opened at the Depot Theatre, Addison Road, Marrickville on Thursday 31st March and is playing until Saturday 16th April.